Serbian citizens support independent journalism through online funding campaigns
Two media outlets supported by USAID’s Strengthening Media Systems (SMS) program are successfully implementing new funding models. The new models are designed to foster financial sustainability and greater communication with audiences through crowdfunding initiatives and membership options.
As a result, both outlets’ revenues have increased. The outlets have demonstrated that Serbian citizens are willing to financially support independent journalism.
Increasing revenue for independent media through crowdfunding
TV Forum in Prijepolje is the first female-led TV station in in the Balkans and one of the rare sustainable media organizations in Serbia. In cooperation with the Catalyst Balkans Foundation, TV Forum is the first local outlet to implement an online crowdfunding campaign to help replace the studio's broadcasting and production equipment.
Fifty days after the launch of its campaign on the local platform Donacije.rs, TV Forum exceeded its goal by 15%, collecting over $5,400 from the community.
“I was skeptical at first and my colleagues hesitated to promote the campaign, believing it to be like asking for charity," said Vladimir Malešić, a TV Forum journalist. “But, through encouragement and guidance from the IREX team and Catalyst Balkans experts—and noticing that our friends, colleagues, citizens of Prijepolje, and successful entrepreneurs began to financially support us—we started to believe. This is an approach we definitely aim to build on.”
Many of the donations (41%) were $10 or less, which suggests that ordinary citizens value and are willing to support media outlets that engage with their community. The largest donations came from a local entrepreneur living abroad and a popular Serbian singer, both born in Prijepolje.
“Forum provides more value than just professional and timely reporting for their local community,” said Commissioner for the Protection of Equality Brankica Janković. “Forum sets standards for reporting in gender-sensitive language that most other broadcasters, including those at the national level, rarely meet.”
Achieving sustainability through online membership
Their readers now have an opportunity to support Danas through one-time donations or by joining the paper’s Readers’ Club through a membership subscription model, giving members access to a variety of discounts for local theaters, bookstores, cinemas, restaurants, and other local businesses.
We [showed] that independent media outlets in Serbia are recognized as a valuable resource, and that our community is willing to support us on a long-term basis.
Bojan Cvejić, editor in chief of the online edition of Danas
Danas raised $7,500 at an auction for the campaign’s launch. In the campaign’s first 72 hours, the paper secured long-term commitments of $2,200 per month through membership subscriptions. This is equal to three average monthly salaries in Serbia.
“We [showed] that independent media outlets in Serbia are recognized as a valuable resource, and that our community is willing to support us on a long-term basis,” said Bojan Cvejić, editor in chief of the online edition of Danas. “The Strengthening Media Systems project and IREX staff [provided] us with essential knowledge and support to launch this campaign.”
This is the first ever online media funding campaign in Serbia that offers recurring payment options. It also offers evidence that membership subscription models are one of the best online fundraising solutions for local media. Since the beginning of this campaign, the Readers’ Club has secured more than 600 members. If it reaches 1,000 members, the Danas online edition’s operations will be completely sustainable.
“We are happy to collaborate with Danas, TV Forum, and other media partners in testing methods of securing revenue directly from readers and supporters, said Evan Tracz, chief of party for Strengthening Media Systems. “Whether through subscription, donation, or crowdfunding models, online payment mechanisms not only bring in extra revenue to support the production of quality journalism, but also, when combined with a communications campaign and systematic outreach efforts, help build a stronger community around the media outlet itself.”